I’m not normally into recycling entries, but as this one is one of the first 15 or so done on this blog, originally written 25 Feb 2005, it wouldn’t have been seen by that many people. Given that the traffic to this site has increased tenfold since those early days (there’s got to be at least ten of you out there now!) I thought it was worthwhile getting the opinions of a few more Saabfolk.
In the interest of keeping the entry’s own integrity, I’ve resited the temptation to add the Viggen in amongst these candidates. Stuff integrity for a joke – the Viggen’s now in!!
Of course, you can write your own suggestion in comments.
OK, here’s a question. Which Saab is the Saabiest? Which one most typifies the essence of the marque? Innovation, safety, sport, design. All these things are typical of many Saab models, but which one exhibits them the most?
Here’s my contenders:
The 750 Grantourismo
The 750 Grantourismo was released in 1958 as a variant of the 96. A lot of vehicle manufacturers had felt the pressure to release a ‘sportier’ version of their current lineup. Saab’s sales had bouyed due to their rally success, so the 750 Grantourismo became Saab’s first sports model.
It was 20% quicker than its little brother due to higher a compression ratio. It was still an inline 3 cylinder of only 750cc, but had a fair bit of poke for a little engine. Initially released with a 3-speed box, a 4-speed became available in 1960.
The equipment level was impressive for the time too. Standard seat belts, cloth interior, tachometer and windsheild washers.
The 750 GT remains a favourite among those that drove it and was part of Saab’s sporting pedigree.
The 99 Turbo
The 99 Turbo was, at the time, Saab’s biggest innovation ever. BMW had tried a turbo 2002 in the early 1970’s, but high pressures tended to blow the turbos and made the vehicle untenable as a production option.
Saab used a lower pressure turbo that accented performance in the lower rev ranges and this led to exhilarating performance that you’d never know was coming from an engine of only 2 litres displacement.
The 99 Turbo became the first turbocharged car to win a WRC rally. It was driven most successfully by Stig Blomqvist.
I owned one of these myself until recently, so you know where my vote’s going!!
The aggressive stance, comfortable, well-appointed interior and sticky handling all won over a new breed of fan for Saab and the turbo revolution was one of the factors that kept Saab afloat through the 80’s, along with our next contender.
The 900 (and 9-3) Convertible
The primary inspiration for the convertible came from America. As with any vehicle manufacturer, the US market is an important one to crack, and Saab gave itself another lease of life when it developed the 900 convertible in 1986. Saab was already steadily growing in popularity through the 80’s. There was a period from 1982 where the brand enjoyed 60 straight months of sales growth, no doubt helped in the latter stages by the 900 convertible.
The 900 convertible became one of Saab’s most memorable images of the 1980’s and 90’s. As well as being turbos and therefore performing as well (if not better) than a lot of other drop-tops, they were also (comparatively) very affordable.
The convertible has remained a part of the Saab range even up to today and is still a strong seller. I was fortunate enough to have a 9-3 Convertible for a couple of days last year and it was a superb drive.
Saab 900 Turbo 16 S
The 1993 variant of the Saab 900 Turbo 16 S was the one with all the bells and whistles attached. As it was the last year of the Classic 900, Saab decided to empty the parts bin.
Full Aero (SPG) body kits, combination suede/leather trim, high output 16 valve turbo engines, cruise, power everything. You name it and the Turbo S got it.
The Classic 900 had to figure in this story somehow or another, and there was no better example of it than 1993’s Turbo 16 S.
OK, yeah. I’m kidding.
OK – a few late additions for y’all to think about….
The 9000 Aero
Famous for having a 50-75mph time quicker than a Ferrari Testarossa. Even more famous amongst people that have driven them for having perhaps the most comfortable seats ever put into a motor car. The 9000 as a range is a fantastic group of tourers. The Aero, first released in MY97 took this great cruiser to another level altogether.
Superbly equipped, deceptively fast, supremely comfortable and with cavernous storage, this would possibly go down with the 9-5 as one of the most underappreciated Saabs of the modern era.
Value for money – on a stick.
The 9-3 Viggen
This wasn’t in the original post, but how can I have this post stand for posterity without it? Call me biased if you will, but I’ve just GOT to include this car now that I’ve had the chance to own and drive one for a while.
The Viggen was Saab’s most recent full-loader (aside, perhaps, from the 9-5 Hirsch vehicles). Saab gave this one the full treatment both under the hood, on the body and inside the cabin. The car received all the agro gear to differentiate it from the 9-3 crowd, but still managed to keep it well mannered with just a hint of "don’t mess with me" thrown in.
If there’s something that was missed in the road tests published about the Viggen, it’s the great road sense and mild manners of this car under normal conditions. When you need some poke it’s there in spades, but this is one of the most pleasurable road cars I’ve had the good fortune to drive, let alone own.
The 2005 9-5 Aero
I’m going to include this as a tribute. Whilst I don’t mind the new 9-5, I don’t have the love for it that I have for this outgoing model. The essence of understatement. If you’ve got a 2005 model then I’d advise you service it regularly, drive it sparingly and enjoy it until your ageing eyes won’t let you see the road ahead anymore. They are that classy, and based broadly on the original pre-GM model, I think this’ll go down as a pretty significant model in Saab’s history, once history has been given the time to write itself.
No matter whether it’s in sedan or wagon form, the 9-5 Aero is a truly elegant, firebreathing beast.